Your Thyroid is Very Sensitive
Not only is thyroid disease incredibly common (levothyroxine is the #1 or #2 most prescribed medication in the United States!) it’s also commonly ignored and/or undertreated.
What do I mean?
Most doctors look at treating thyroid disease like a simple equation:
Give patient Synthroid/levothyroxine + Check TSH = thyroid is good to go.
If only it were that easy!
If it were then we wouldn’t have the thousands and thousands of thyroid patients who are unsatisfied with their current thyroid management (see numerous studies (1) and surveys on the topic).
Why the discrepancy?
Well, obviously, the thyroid is more complicated than one simple lab test (the TSH).
We aren’t going to talk about the complexities of thyroid lab testing management here but what you need to know is that your thyroid is exquisitely sensitive to a number of factors.
This is both a good and a bad thing.
Bad in the sense that these problems can obviously make your thyroid worse.
But good in the sense that it means there are factors that YOU can manage on your own which can influence your thyroid gland for the better!
And just because you aren’t feeling well right now doesn’t mean you have to stay that way forever.
There are several things that you may be doing (perhaps even unknowingly) that can negatively impact your thyroid.
And these are the things we are going to talk about right now.
Even if your doctor isn’t willing to try new medications, even if they aren’t willing to try NDT or T3 medications, even if they aren’t willing to order the full lab panel, it doesn’t matter.
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6 Things you may not realize you’re doing that damage your thyroid
Where does this list come from?
From my own personal experience in treating thyroid patients over the last 5 years and in paying attention to thousands of comments on Facebook posts, youtube videos, podcasts, and blog comments.
If you have thyroid disease of ANY type (but especially hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s) then you should pay very close attention to these factors.
By FIXING them you stand to improve your thyroid function in a natural and healthy way which may make your thyroid medication MORE effective and may even help you lower your dose over time.
With that in mind, let’s jump in:
#1. Not sleeping enough.
The first bad habit that I
Here’s the problem:
Most (but not all) people who suffer from thyroid disease tend to be women.
We could talk all day about why I think this is and the various factors that women face that cause this phenomenon but we won’t focus on it here.
One important reason worth noting, however, is that women tend to experience autoimmune disease at much higher rates compared to men (2).
And since the #1 cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune disease) you can see why many women suffer from both Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism.
What you need to understand is that SLEEP plays a very important role in regulating not only your thyroid but also OTHER hormones and, perhaps most importantly, inflammatory pathways.
So what happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
For starters, a lack of sleep (as few as 6 hours per night) DIRECTLY causes a negative impact on your thyroid.
We know that people sleeping fewer than 6 hours per night have lower than normal free T3 and free T4 levels (3) (your free and active thyroid hormones).
We also know that people who don’t get enough sleep have issues with cortisol (more on that below), they are MUCH more likely to gain weight (4), suffer from insulin resistance, and even have problems with their sex hormones.
If that wasn’t enough, we also know that decreased sleep leads to INFLAMMATION.
And inflammation is the primary driver of conditions such as Hashimoto’s and even hypothyroidism (albeit indirectly).
What’s unfortunate here is that sleep doesn’t get nearly the attention that it deserves.
Mostly because it isn’t a ‘sexy’ therapy, at least when compared to new and fancy medical devices, medications, or supplements.
But there is nothing better for your thyroid than good old-fashioned sleep.
As a thyroid patient, you should be focusing on getting at LEAST 8 hours of sleep per night.
And, in the beginning, you might find that you need even more than this.
Don’t be alarmed if your body wants to sleep 9+ hours.
But as you sleep more you will notice an improvement in your energy levels, your thyroid hormone status, and your sex hormones.
#2. Not taking thyroid-specific supplements.
The next thing that most people miss out on is the use of thyroid-specific supplements.
What do I mean?
I am talking about supplements that are directed SPECIFICALLY at your thyroid.
Most people are already taking supplements of some kind.
They might even already be taking important thyroid nutrients such as zinc, selenium, and iodine.
But very few are taking supplements that target the specific pathways that thyroid patients care about most.
I’m talking about pathways such as:
- Thyroid hormone production
- Thyroid hormone conversion
- Thyroid receptor sensitivity
- The thyroid-adrenal connection
- And gut health
Each of these areas is incredibly important to thyroid patients because they directly impact thyroid hormone function.
And just taking a regular multivitamin or some zinc or selenium will NOT target these specific pathways.
There are certain combinations of nutrients, vitamins, and even botanicals that can help improve thyroid function but they are not even on the radar of most thyroid patients.
I would strongly encourage you to read more about the impact that supplements have on your thyroid and figure out which ones you might benefit from taking.
I’ve included some of the reasons below why these areas are so important and included links to my favorite products in each section:
- Thyroid hormone production – Your thyroid gland produces both T4 and T3 and these hormones require certain nutrients such as iodine and tyrosine in order to do this. If you don’t have these nutrients then your gland may not produce enough of the thyroid hormone that you need.
- Thyroid hormone conversion – Conversion is the process whereby your body ACTIVATES T4 thyroid hormone by turning it into T3. You can take special supplements to specifically help this occur.
- Thyroid receptor sensitivity – Your cells are either sensitive (or not) to thyroid hormone. You can take certain nutrients to improve this sensitivity to help your T3 work.
- Thyroid adrenal connection – Cortisol levels can negatively impact your thyroid. By treating your adrenals you can also treat your thyroid.
- Gut health – A large percentage of T4 is converted into the active thyroid hormone T3 in your gut. If you focus on your gut you can improve this conversion process and improve your T3 levels.
You can take more than one of the supplements above to help improve your thyroid function.
#3. Not paying attention to inflammatory oils.
One of the worst things you can do for your health and your thyroid is to consume what is known as inflammatory oils.
These are oils, found in pretty much every processed food, which cause inflammation and damage when consumed.
These oils are found just about EVERYWHERE and they are probably sabotaging your diet whether you realize it or not.
Many a ‘healthy’ diet is sabotaged by these fats including the keto diet and the gluten-free/dairy-free diets that many thyroid patients go on.
Just think about it:
Imagine you go through all of the effort to change your diet only to sabotage yourself because you are actually eating an unhealthy version of the healthy diet you are trying to eat.
This happens more than you think which is why we are talking about it here.
And just so we are on the same page, make sure you take a look at what kinds of fats I am talking about.
Inflammatory oils (5) include:
- “Vegetable” oils
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Soy oil
- Corn oil and all its derivatives
- Rapeseed oil and derivatives
- There are others but these are the most common
These fats are EVERYWHERE because they are so incredibly cheap.
Virtually every restaurant and every major food company will use these oils because of their price.
But even though they are cheap to create doesn’t mean they are cheap to consume.
You will eventually pay the price, in this case, your health, one way or the other.
No matter what diet you are using (or what foods you are eating) you need to make avoiding these fats a top priority.
There are two ways you can go about doing this:
#1. Look on the back of EVERY food you put into your mouth and look specifically at the ingredient list. If you see any of the oils listed above then DON’T EAT IT. You should also just assume that every place you eat out at is using these oils (another reason to not eat out!).
#2. Eat only healthy fats by cooking your own foods.
You can completely skip #1 if you stick to #2.
The list of healthy fats is far shorter than the list of unhealthy fats.
So, what should you be consuming?
Don’t let any oil touch your palate that isn’t the following:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
Seriously, it’s that simple.
Just only cook with these oils and you will be way better off.
And, you will probably notice that almost every restaurant you’ve ever been to will NOT cook with these oils.
Because they are significantly MORE expensive than the vegetable oils that I’ve listed above!
This is why I recommend that you do the majority of your own cooking because you can control which oils you use and which you don’t.
Avoiding these fats will help keep inflammatory levels down which will promote T4 to T3 conversion and a healthy thyroid!
#4. Avoiding certain vegetables.
A huge mistake that I see people make is the avoidance of certain vegetables.
Why would you avoid vegetables if you have thyroid disease?
If you aren’t familiar with the idea of goitrogens then let me explain.
There are certain compounds, called goitrogens, which can block the uptake of iodine into your thyroid gland.
These compounds are found in the environment but they also exist in certain foods.
And, you guessed it, certain vegetables (such as cruciferous vegetables) carry a goitrogenic effect.
Does this mean that eating vegetables will harm your thyroid?
Not at all, but this is what some people think.
What they forget to take into account is the positive effect that vegetables have on your health AND the relative goitrogenic effect that certain vegetables have.
Let’s consider an example:
I probably don’t need to convince you that vegetables are healthy for your body, right?
So let’s assume that consuming vegetables IS healthy for your body.
Let’s also assume that some vegetables carry this goitrogenic effect which can theoretically block your thyroid.
While this is theoretically true, the application of this effect is basically nonexistent.
Consuming these vegetables may have a 1% negative impact on your thyroid whereas they have a massive benefit from a positive perspective on your health.
So the trade-off between consuming vegetables will always outweigh the perceived negative goitrogenic effects that they may have.
I have only seen one case study where consuming kale has had any minor impact on thyroid function and the person consuming this kale was eating it for every meal every single day.
For most people, it’s just not possible to consume the sheer amount of cruciferous vegetables necessary to even put a dent in your thyroid function.
And, even if you were concerned about it, all you would need to do is STEAM your veggies prior to eating them.
Steaming has the beneficial effect of reducing goitrogens in food to render them even less effective.
Moral of the story?
Don’t avoid vegetables if you have thyroid disease because you are afraid that they will cause harm!
#5. Eating too much soy.
Soy, much like the industrial seed oils and bad fats we’ve already discussed, has a NEGATIVE impact on your thyroid (6).
Not only do they act as a goitrogen (already discussed) but they also can directly lower thyroid hormones such as T3 and T4.
And, unfortunately, soy-based products are commonly found in all types of processed foods.
In case you needed another reason to avoid processed foods, here it is!
In addition, almost all soy is genetically modified which probably also plays a role in how it impacts your health and your thyroid.
One big problem with soy is that there are some studies that show that it has potential positive health benefits.
This makes people think they can or should consume soy while others are left feeling confused.
In general, consuming soy which is non-GMO/organic may be okay for some people WITHOUT thyroid disease.
But due to the sheer percentage of genetically modified processed soy out in circulation, I recommend that all thyroid patients stay far away from soy.
Following this advice typically results in less inflammation and better thyroid hormone status.
So, avoid soy and soy-based products!
#6. Not paying attention to your adrenal function.
The last thing you need to pay attention to is your adrenal function.
And by adrenal function, I am really referring to your cortisol level.
Cortisol is a hormone that impacts several systems in your body including your thyroid.
Here’s how it works:
When you get stressed your cortisol level spikes.
This spike in cortisol helps your body cope with the stress but also impacts your thyroid.
Constant spiking of your cortisol eventually leads to cortisol receptor resistance and changes in your serum cortisol level.
These changes then impact your thyroid in a negative way.
So by ignoring your stress and your cortisol you are directly or indirectly (depending on how you look at it) hurting your thyroid gland.
So this can really be titled not paying attention to your stress level or not paying attention to your cortisol level.
Regardless of how you look at it, it’s something you need to be doing.
There are many ways and many therapies you can use to help manage both your stress and your cortisol so just make sure you are doing something.
Wrapping it up
I know how difficult it can be to get your doctor on board with you when it comes to treating your thyroid.
This is why it’s so important for you to take these things so seriously.
Even if your doctor isn’t willing to change up your medication or order the right lab tests, you can still make changes in your life that will impact your thyroid.
By getting rid of these habits you can naturally improve your thyroid function to help you feel better.
And, again, remember:
These therapies also help your GENERAL health.
So even if you don’t have a thyroid gland these things STILL help!
While your thyroid gland is a very sensitive tissue, your body still suffers when you are put under lots of stress or when you eat unhealthy foods.
But now I want to hear from you:
Are you currently doing any of these habits?
Did you know that they negatively impact your thyroid?
If you weren’t, are you thinking about making any changes to help your thyroid?
Are you already making some of these changes? If so, how are you feeling after?
Leave your questions or comments below!
36 thoughts on “6 Habits that Damage your Thyroid (Avoid These!)”
I have a question: I was on naturthroid 32.5 & my MD titrated it up to 65. I felt fantastic! Lots of energy & with a restrictive diet in sugar & simple carbs, list 20 lbs. Then in 2019 the roller coaster started. Low body temp, weight gain, tiredness. Tried Armour, no really changes. Then back on Naturethtoid. Now taking 130 mg. Of naturethtoid. Symptoms back, bloated & cant shed the 10 lbs. I now have slightly low T-SHIRT, low normal T4, & slightly high T3. MD says this is good. Wondering Why I don’t I feel better & why the weight won’t come off? My question: what are others doing in this situation?
I would recommend that you take a look at this article which explains the phenomenon you are experiencing: https://www.restartmed.com/you-cant-stay-on-the-same-thyroid-medication-dose-forever/
And this one for weight gain/weight loss resistance: https://www.restartmed.com/lose-weight-hypothyroidism/
I have had a thyroid problem for 12 years and all they want to do is take blood and put me on the same medication, I don’t feel any better numbers keep going up and they ask me why are your numbers so high , maybe five hours of sleep heaviest I’ve ever been don’t know were to turn .
I would start with the therapies on this blog. This entire website is dedicated to helping thyroid patients not only help themselves but also work with their doctor so you are in the right place 🙂
I have Hashimotos and slightly over medicated overactive thyroid from a nodule .I dont sleep well ,tops 4hrs to none.The Dr says I am not dreaming will sleeping tablets help me sleep to help my thyroid.
Be careful with prescription sleeping aids as they can cause dependence and don’t actually improve the depth or quality of your sleep.
I also have Hashimotos and have a very hard time getting to sleep. I go to bed way past midnight and am usually up early with my kids. I don’t get tired or when I am tired its allot earlier like 6pm and with kids its not possible to head to bed then. What would you recommend to take to help get to bed at a decent time but won’t cause a dependence or be harmful? Thank you!
Please I have hypothyroidism and would like someone to help me maintain it , so I can tell my endocrinologist.
I’m not sure I understand your question. Endocrinologists can help manage your thyroid but they tend to treat a certain way and not many thyroid patients do well on this sort of treatment.
I have plenty of info on my blog to help thyroid patients both with natural treatments and thyroid medication management.
Hi Dr. Childs;
I have Hashimotos and hypothyroid. I recently visited my dr and all my blood work was great as I was feeling pretty good ! A couple of weeks later I started feeling really tired (Woke up tired, took a nap to get through the day and really to go back to bed at 7 pm), joint pain like never before and terrible muscle pain. Yes, I was under a lot of stress but could stress cause that much trouble? It has eased up but some days it flares up. Could you give me advice on what I might could do? I’m on a low carb/no sugar diet and take supplements, and Armour .
Your doctor said that your thyroid panel looks “great.” I would be curios to know what his definition of great is. Many doctors just go by the antiquated reference chart for your thyroid levels. Not by how you feel.
I have had hypothyroid for 12 years and just recently got my TPO antibodies checked. They were over 200. I have had a dry scalp and skin for the past 6 months and can’t get rid of it. I also have been taking the same thyroid medication for the 12 years and the naturopath I saw just increased the dose. It’s synthroid 100mCL. I’ve been on 50mcg for the last 11 years. Please help. My hair is breaking off and so so dry. I don’t know if I need supplements or a different medicine. My regular doctor actually told me nothing was wrong since my TSH is “normal”.
Unless you’re willing to find a Dr to at least test your Free T3 and T4 levels you won’t find out what’s really going on. Look for an obgyn that treats thyroid, weight, and hormonal issues. I was on the same Levothyroxine for ten years but the last three years I’ve had bad hypo symptoms and the Dr always told me it was “normal.” Well, it wasn’t normal. My Free T3 levels were swiftly declining. Good Luck.
Few doctors know how to to treat Hashimoto’s. 90% of people with hypothyroid have Hashimoto’s. It’s good that your are seeing a Naturopathic doctor. Good luck.
Hi, I do not have a thyroid and I’m desperate for information on how to feel better. I’m 28, been on levothyroxine since I had my thyroid removed at 16yrs old. I have felt Like crap for so many years, I am anxious and my body is freaking out, but I’m also exhausted 24/7. Nothing I read is ever meant for people with no thyroid. Only hypothyroidism. For example, this article is saying what is good for your thyroid. I have no Idea what is good for me, what foods i should/shouldn’t eat, what supplements could help me. I have so many questions and no one to help me. Please if you have time, email me.
You just said everything I was thinking.. just waiting on some miracle blog or medicine. I’m sure you know, everyday you wake up is a crap shoot, what body function will work the least today. Will I be tired, foggy, anxiety, depression, gain 7 pounds because I ate a cracker with my low carb soup. Too hot, too cold, too forgetful, or all these things in addition to being so mentally tired, and sleep does not help!! Having no thyroid is honestly like living half a life and because we look normal, NO ONE and I mean no one understands what we go through day after freaking day and honestly i’m sick of explaining myself. If I hear one more time to “get some rest” if I’m tired, I’m going to just cry!! If you get any breath thru advise, could you do a fellow no thyroider a tip or two 🙂
Hi Stacy! You are welcome to email me at email@example.com just so we can have someone In the same situation to stay in touch with in case we find ways to feel better. The articles he sent me below are already seeming helpful.
I have a number of articles and resources designed just for people like you. I would take some time looking through my articles and website because it will provide you with more information than you could possibly want. Here are a few examples:
Wow great thank you! I have already been taking zinc since COVID started so I will continue to take that and I’ll add selenium for sure. The articles are already making me feel better knowing that they are made for people with no thyroid. Thank you for not forgetting about us! You are a blessing.
Look up Dr. Brooke Goldner. At goodbyelupus.com. She specializes in diseases reversal for All autoimmune diseases. Dr. Brooke Goldner details how she used her hyper-nourishment protocol to help real people all over the world get their lives back from Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s, Scleroderma, Psoriasis, Hashimotos and many more using supermarket foods. Although your thyroid has been removed, maybe she can help you feel better!! I started her protocol 4 weeks ago. I have Hashimoto’s, so we’ll see how my blood test will look once the program is over. If nothing else, I think eating a whole food plant based diet is key to feeling better. That is what she preaches. No Animal products, purely whole-food plant based. Just remember not all plant based diets are created equal. Processed foods that are plant based are not good for you either. It must be whole-food plant based (Unprocessed). Hope this helps. Good luck to you.
I’ve read SO much this evening and I got a wonderful lesson ! Now -to put it all into action!
Good luck! Putting it into action is what matters most!
Have had hypothyroidism for 20 yrs. always on Levothyrixinec100mcg until seeing naturopath 2 yrs ago. Increased Levo to 125 and added cytomel 25mg. Had increased energy,reflux went away and lost 15#. Saw internist who freaked with TSH of .015. Free thyroxine 1.8 Free triodothyroxine 5.7 Thyroglobulin less than 1.8 and TPO 21.2. I felt pretty good. Decreased Levo to 112mcg and Cytomel to15mg. DX autoimmune thyroid and wants TSH less than 2.5. Offered no tx for what I’m assuming is Hashimoto Within 2 wks of lower dose have multi joint pain reflux fatigue and wt gain. Am ready to dump internist but ins pays for lab she orders and go back to NPath and higher doses where I felt better. Is it dangerous to have TSH at .015? Do I have Hashimoto based on my lab?
Am I being treated optimally?
I would love nothing more than to sleep 8+ hours. I realize the importance but if insomnia is one of the symptoms I am dealing with and have tried several supplements with no success, I don’t know What else to do ♀️
I WAS GIVEN RADIOACTIVE IODINE IN 1993
LATER WHEN THE DOCTOR SAID THE RAI HAD DONE IT’S JOB I WAS PRESCRIBED 75 MG OF SYNTHROID. THE FIRST NIGHT MY HEART BEGAN TO POUND SO HARD MY BED MOVED AWAY FROM IT’S USUAL PLACE. THE SOLUTION FROM THE DOCTOR
” PUT SOME COASTERS UNDER THE WHEELS”
EVERY DAY FOR QUITE A LONG TIME I HAD DIARRHEA , THE ANSWER THE DOCTOR HAD “TAKE METAMUCIL” later i asked another doctor if he knew why he said NO. SO I ASKED THE PHARMACIST WHY, HE SAID HE DIDN’T KNOW. ONE YEAR AGO I QUIT TAKING THYROID MEDS FOR SEVEN WEEKS AND THEN ASKED FOR A RADIOACTIVE IODINE THYROID UPTAKE TEST THE RESULT WAS A NORMAL. 11% UPTAKE NORMAL IS BETWEEN 4-15 I WAS TOLD. MY DOCTOR SAID I DON’T NEED THYROID MEDICATION ANYMORE. I’M EATING FRESH VEGETABLES VEGETABLES AND EATING A LOT BETTER AND NOW GETTING MORE SLEEP . IFOUND OUT THE SYNTHROID PROBLEM CAME FROM THE LACTOSE IN THE PILL NO MORE SYNTHROID NO MORE DIGIGESTION PROBLEMS
Hi Dr. Childs,
Yes, sleep is important but sometimes near impossible. I have horrible menopausal night sweats and cannot take estrogen and cannot tolerate the other Rx that my doctor wants to give. Found out about ERr731 Siberian rhubarb which is a phytoestrogen but am hesitant to take it because of breast cancer. I know this isn’t your specialty but just thought I’d mention it.
Also should mention that your Berberine complex has biotin in it and perhaps you should put a ‘heads up’ on the label for people to discontinue using it for a few days before their thyroid labs…
I will talk to my endocrinologist in a couple of days and we’ll see what she says about my last test with very low T4 and normal TSH–one of the common Hashimotos ‘patterns’ you mentioned, especially since I recently switched to NP.
Hi Dr C! Another good fat you forgot to mention=pastured butter and/or ghee, which has a higher smoke point and is good to cook with./
thank you, Bernadette
Yes, those are also good fats that can be used.
What about Avacado Oil? Another functional medicine doc says Cook with avacado oil and use Coconut & Olive oil for dressings and in recipes because of the smoke points.
Avocado oil is okay but not great.
Is Bran oil classed as vegetable oil? Is this okay to use?
Could you direct me to where I can find more information on Congenital Hypothyroidism?
I use avocado oil in my cooking and noticed it wasn’t on your list. What do you think?
It’s not the best but also not the worst 🙂
I have hypothyroidism and have very high cholesterol. Statins made my muscles cramp horribly, so much so that I cannot sleep. My Triglycerides are around 300. Is there any diet or natural way to bring down my cholesterol?.
(side note: I just started taking bio identical HRT. My hot flashes have turned to warm flashes and my energy is coming back.)
Hello, I have hyperthyroidism, gravies disease for over 6 years now. I take carbimazole. I have not been able to get off these tablets completely. After reducing them I return to hyperthyroidism.
What can I do to make my thyroid normal without medication or radiation